TOKYO — Heritage plays an important role in Ralph Lauren's universe, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary next year.
On the surface, a man like Lauren would seem at odds with Tokyo, Japan's urban metropolis of crowded streets, a tangled infrastructure, high-tech architecture and a youth that embraces every fashion craze — as long as it's colorful and crazy. But Lauren, on his first trip to Japan in 25 years late last month to open a flagship on Omotesando Dori, was a natural with the locals, who mobbed him, taking photos of him with their cell phones as if he were the heartthrob member of the newest boy band. Omotesando was even lined in American and Japanese flags in his honor.
"It's very individual here," Lauren observed. "The young people have an eclectic style. They get it when you show it to them. They love the cinema, fashion and are happy to experiment. They are absorbing and moving quickly."
The same could be said of Lauren, who had little time to sit back and relax on this five-day journey to Tokyo. A day in the life of Lauren there consisted of a gym session (the Laurens brought along their Manhattan personal trainer); breakfast; briefings on the day's schedule; several interviews with the Japanese press; trips to the flagship for a final polish before the ribbon cutting and opening party, which were held on March 29, and visits to local department stores that carry Polo.
Tokyo can be a daunting city for visitors, a notion that was perhaps most eloquently conveyed by director Sofia Coppola in "Lost in Translation." Lauren, who maintains that each collection is based on a movie that takes place in his head, said he had too little time for any "lost" moments.
"My schedule is boom, boom, boom," he said. "I get up, I work out in the morning and then I am on schedule. I do interviews, I go and see some stores and then I am working on my own store, going through the details that didn't work and how we should do it."
That's not to say the trip didn't have its share of memorable moments for Lauren, who was impressed by how much the city had transformed since his last visit.
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